TIGER FORCECompany ’69/’70
I was a draftee from Santa Cruz, Calif. I went to Long Bin, then Phu Bai to Camp Eagle in early August 1969. I flew in a C130 with a few longer term vets coming back to their units after recovering from wounds. I was scared and 20 years old at the time with two years of college. The Tigers grabbed me off the deuce and a half and said if I joined I would not have to wear a helmet. I joined, got my boonie hat and became the platoon RTO immediately. Little did I know about being near Lts. in combat. Seems I was always taking care of them and breaking a new one in when the old got wounded, etc. Dave Stuck and “Chickenman” renamed me “Tiger” Don as they told me there had to be at least one “Tiger” in the platoon. They left shortly after so my name generally was lost with them. During the year I was there I can not even count the number of soldiers I served with. It seems that every week we had individuals entering and leaving and after a short time I stopped trying to even learn their names. Besides Lt. Kernan, Bill Hatting and I joined the Tigers together and drank cheap PBR beer together until he was killed in an ambush in December 22, 1969.
Since then I have remarried, raised 7 children, gotten a PhD, researched and taught for 23 years at North Dakota State University, and am presently Assistant Director of the North Dakota Agricultural Experiment Station. It’s been a long time.
I’ve said very little to my wife or children about my service time. For example my son was a senior in high school before he knew I was a Vietnam veteran. He only found out through a paper he had to write with my wife telling him he didn’t need to contact his grandfather to interview a war veteran. Also I see that Lt. Bill Kernan was on this site. I was his RTO from September 69 to December 69 when we carried him out with what I believe was a shrapnel infection. He was by far the best of the six platoon leaders I served with between August 1969 and August 1970. It would be a honor to be able to tell him this directly if the chance ever came.
Firebase Roy around 11/69
Left to right: Lt. Bill Kernan, Danny Kniss, Don Kirby and SSgt Jim Fields.